My family is Italian, hailing from Abruzzo. I can trace my lineage to the town of Calascio, and I was fortunate enough to interact daily with my great grandfather (who came from Italy) on a daily basis until I was 8. I love Italian food naturally, but being low carb kind of throws a wrench in my ability to enjoy pasta and that makes me sad. I don’t need to sing the praises of pasta here; anyone who has ever eaten even jarred marinara and spaghetti can attest to the wonder of carby noodles and delicious sauce. I am however interested in ensuring that I can continue to placate that part of my palate, and so when my wife wanted lasagna a few weeks ago, I thought about how I could indulge her craving.
Luckily, I am nothing if not dedicated to inventive ways of staying keto while eating my favorite foods. I thought about the various ingredients in a classic lasagna – meat, cheese, ricotta, eggs, noodles, tomato sauce. Well, all of that is fine, save for the noodles and sauce, and honestly even the sauce in small amounts would be fine (not to mention low carb sauces like Rao’s exist), but what about noodles?
If you’ve ever made low carb pizza, then you might be familiar with the various cauliflower, chicken, or cheese-based crusts that exist. I wanted something that would fit, taste-wise, with lasagna, so I made a pizza dough recipe and cut it into strips for lasagna noodles. It worked, and the result was a perfect marriage of cheese, sauce, and noodles that ended up even better the next day. I wanted to pair it with a semi-indulgent side and I had some big dumb portobellos in the fridge. Mushrooms fried in butter and garlic are a simple pleasure but they’re easy and satisfying.
Keto Lasagna and Garlic Mushrooms
For the mushrooms:
6-8 large portobello caps
5 cloves garlic, crush and finely chopped
4 tbsp butter (salted)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 Parmesan, and in this case, I mean green shaker Parmesan – no shame here, as this functions better for our purposes.
Start by washing the mushrooms and removing the stems. Use a spoon to scrape out the gills if you want – I prefer it this way, but you don’t really have to. Chop the shroom caps into 1/2 inch thick strips and set aside. He 2 tbsp butter over medium heat in a large pan or skillet, and toss in the garlic. After 4 minutes or so, when it starts to brown and become fragrant, toss in your mushrooms. Sprinkle the salt over the mushrooms and allow them to release their liquid. As it cooks off, after about 5 minutes, add the olive oil and garlic powder. Keep on medium heat, stirring occasionally, and start on the lasagna. You’re going to keep the heat medium to medium-low, and continue stirring to get most of the liquid out while you prep and start the lasagna. This gives the mushrooms a much chewier, meatier texture.
For the noodles:
3/4 cup almond flour
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
3 tbsp cream cheese
1 tsp salt
Black pepper and garlic powder to taste (I used 1 tsp of each)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While the oven heats up, mix all of the ingredients roughly in a bowl, and microwave for 1 minute. Remove, stir, and place back into the microwave for another 30 seconds. When it’s done, mix it up well and it should form into a doughy ball. Place dough between two silpats or pieces of parchment paper and roll it out thin, maybe 1/8 of an inch. Bake it for about 10 minutes, until it’s cooked and golden brown but still somewhat pliable. Cut it into 3 inch strips and let it cool.
Repeat this process.
For the filling:
15oz ricotta cheese (you can use cottage cheese if you don’t mind the souls of millions of Italian grandmas judging you for eternity in the beyond)((just kidding, don’t use cottage cheese))
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
Mix all of this together very well. Set aside.
1 cup Rao’s or any other lower-carb tomato sauce.
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
Shredded Parmesan (optional)
Add a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish, and add three noodles. Spread an even layer of ricotta filling over that, followed by a thin layer of tomato sauce, and 1/2 cup mozzarella. You can add in a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese now as well, or meat, if you so desire. I prefer lasagna without meat in it, opting instead for meatballs or Italian sausage on the side – that’s how my grandmother did it, that’s how I do it, and it’s worked out pretty well so far. Anyway, keep layering like that until you’ve run out of ingredients, and then top the whole thing off with more shredded mozzarella. Cover with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350.
While your lasagna is baking, go back to the mushrooms. They should be mush (haha) smaller, so now we add the last 2 tbsp of butter. As that cooks a bit more, you can sprinkle in the cheese, stirring to coat. This creates a wonderful crust on the mushrooms and at this point, they’re done. Cover and turn off the heat.
When the 20 minutes are up on the lasagna, take the foil off and bake for another 5-7 minutes to brown the cheese on top. When it’s done, pull it out and let it sit for 5 minutes. Serve with the mushrooms.
This recipe was delicious, and I’m working on some variations for future posts. Though it sounds complicated, it’s really just assembly line problems, and I guarantee once you’ve made it one time, you’ll have no trouble doing it without thought again, and the mushroom recipe actually pairs really well with just about anything, so we make it a lot just on its own.
In terms of comfort food, there’s not a lot that’s better than lasagna, and being able to once again eat it on keto – even if it is an occasional indulgence – brings me great inner peace. I hope it brings joy to my ancestors in Italian Valhalla, which is essentially a huge dinner table in which the older folks stand around talking and when you as a kid enter the room, they look at you and switch to speaking in Italian, which is a great way to learn how to swear in another language.